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As we have swung into August, it comes to mind that we are well over halfway through 2016. I am not sure how that happened, but somehow the math is correct.

Prior to the birth of my daughter, I had little way to mark time, as the seasons do not vary widely enough here in Singapore to provide a proper demarcation.  Husband and I often ask each other questions like “when was it that we bought the motorcycle?” “do you remember when we last had a gardener out?” Cues such as what we were wearing (i.e. winter or summer clothes) or the falling of the leaves for fall are often absent. Christmas is noted not by winter’s snow and ice but by the Christmas music being played at Cold Storage during the daily shop. (Trust me, you can’t miss children singing Deck the Halls in Mandarin on repeat for 3 months.)

But now I seem to have the opposite problem, my time is all too well marked. Each month is a daunting reminder of time passing as she grows at the rate of a weed with a new skill set practically each day to match.

Eight months ago, on New Years Eve, we left the child with the nanny to go for a few adult beverages with friends at a nearby bar restaurant that also had a DJ and a countdown. After a few months in “home mode,” I was surprised at how familiar being out among adults and drinks felt. I had somehow wrongly expected it to seem foreign.

On the way to celebrate, the topic of new years resolutions came up. One friend suggested that instead of resolutions, we come up with a word of the year. This was half in jest, as his cousin had posted her word of the year on Facebook, and he struggled to understand the concept.

So we all picked our word. My husband choosing the word “fatherhood,” as I threw out the word “unapologetic.” Everyone laughed. It didn’t sound very nice, I admit. And of course I’m known at times to be blunt, opinionated and stubborn.

But are these such bad traits? We live in a world that tells us ladies to “be nice” and everywhere we look there are conscious and subconscious cues telling us to behave, to not get out of line. Out of what line? The one that pays us women 75 cents to the dollar and offers them little choice in the workforce once they become mothers? The one that sentences a rapist to a mere 6 months of jail time as not to disrupt his life? The one that walks into a gay club and kills 50 people? This is not the world I want for myself, for my daughter, for your daughters.

My choices may be unconventional, but they are not wrong or ill informed and I will not apologize for them.

Let’s be honest – the metaphorical “they” wouldn’t be happy with our choices, in any form. We are told to “be ourselves” and then given a whole list of reasons on why that’s not good enough. Too fat, too focused on appearance, too driven, too lazy, too assertive, too shy, too materially focused, not financially savvy.

Life is a work in progress and my heart is free. I was reminded of this as I ran across this quote on the internet –

unapologetic

Unapologetic.

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Books and Beer has been on my radar for a while, but I only finally made it to their event this past March. Turns out my suspicions were right, I DO love this concept! Between my mother and I (she happened to be in town so I took her along) we came home with a pretty good load of reads.

What: Books. You bring up to 10 books and in return (ideally) take home the same number of books you brought

Where: At a pub! Or bar! The last one had happy hour $7 glasses of wine!!

Who: Book nerds. Mingle with other people, ask them what they are reading, start conversations, OR put your nose in a book and be alone among other people like an introvert’s dream. But with beer.

Why: Books.

When: Next meetup is June 11, 2016. That’s a month out, so it gives you time to sort through your collection of books and decide which ones are worth sacrificing. You can always check their Tumblr here for the next event.

Oh and did I mention the event is absolutely FREE? Well, except you are going to need to buy your own beer.

Here they are on Facebook if you want to keep up with them.

 

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Durians in Chinatown.

 

 

mj chinese book

If you’ve been keeping track, you might remember that I spent the last few months in the midst of learning Mandarin alongside my husband.  One evening, I interrupted his after work TV time to ask him his thoughts on the experience.

Me: Hey hon. Can I interrupt you to get you to help me with something?

Husband: Is this about Mandarin?

Me: Yep, Just wondering – What made you want to learn Mandarin?

Husband: It’s a major language in the part of the world we live in. It would be foolish not to try to communicate.

Me: Good point. What are your general thoughts on the lessons?

Husband:  I enjoyed them but I don’t think I’ve had the opportunity to exercise what I learned other than when I visit Din Tai Fung, so I am frustrated about that.

Me: So you aren’t dazzling anyone with your ability to speak in Mandarin then?

Husband: I don’t think I’ve impressed anyone with my Mandarin, but the effort I put in to learn it might have impressed a few people, especially my Mandarin speaking colleagues.

Me: What could be done to improve your Mandarin language skills? What about the free weekly speaking club Elite provides? Would that give you an opportunity to use the skills you’ve learned?

Husband: I think going to the club would help, if the teacher could assist more toward the first visit.

Me: Do you think a few catch up privates would help?

Husband: Perhaps, I’d see how that works. Our class size of five was small so I don’t expect to see a huge jump in learning productivity with privates. The better they can do to get students somewhere to practice what they learned, the more chance of success. They have that with the language club, but I need a little more reassurance to get there to the club and participate. I’m not sure how that could be done.

Me: OK, so what did you enjoy the most about the experience?

Husband: I take enjoyment in learning, but the wider cultural lessons offered were interesting and enticing. They helped me maintain enthusiasm.

Me: Do you have an example?

Husband: We talked about the cultural significance of how time and events are communicated in Mandarin. Also the lack of tense in verbs means the language is very direct. Now we better understand Singlish in Singapore because we know a little about the other root language that makes it up.

Me: What was challenging about learning Mandarin and the lessons themselves?

Husband: The course material itself was relevant and focused on survival Mandarin. That was good. But it has been a long time since I was in a learning setting like that – at least a decade. The time spent away from a school-like setting put me on a learning curve in terms of absorption rate compared to my peers. They seemed to pick up things quicker.

Me: You didn’t appear to struggle to me. Do you think maybe you are being hard on yourself?

Husband: No, I struggled. I wouldn’t want it more challenging. I felt like the rate and pace was as good as I could have followed at a level of commitment of once a week.

Me: So they hit a sweet spot with pace?

Husband: Compromise between everyone in the class, isn’t it?

Me: Speaking of everyone in the class, what did you think of your classmates?

Husband: It was an intimate but wide range of people in terms of age, experience and income. I was apprehensive beforehand, but I found the clientele they attracted to be warm and friendly and the setting was comfortable and not intimidating, unlike other language classes. Everyone in the class felt comfortable enough to stop and ask questions at any point.

Me: Between you and I, who do you think had an easier time learning Mandarin? Which one of us had more of a natural talent for it? 

Husband: I put more effort into it, but it was easier for you.

Me: I’m not sure I agree with you, but what do you think caused me to have an easier time with it?

Husband: You’re younger and your mind is a little more receptive to picking new things up.

Me: I gave birth to our daughter during our 12 week course. I’m sure that affected my learning. How do you think it changed my learning pace?

Husband: You missed 2 lessons, but you didn’t feel like you couldn’t come back. The other students were supportive of you and I think it was neat to everyone to have met her when you brought her to class.

Me: We can tell her she had her first mandarin lesson at two weeks old!

Husband: Yep! She’s got no excuse for not learning Mandarin.

Me: So overall, the experience – good? Bad?

Husband: Very rewarding.

Me: And was it difficult to carve out the time in your schedule to attend?

Husband: No, not unduly.

Me: Thanks, hon. You can have your TV back.

Husband: Woohoo.

 

Editor’s note:

 

If you are interested in enrolling (and I encourage you to consider it!), Elite Linguistic Network offers corporate, private and several group classes a week in Mandarin. Group classes are held at both Bugis and Jurong East and are currently $420 for 12 sessions. They offer a steal of a trial lesson at only $3 if you would like to check out the group courses prior to enrollment. Classes are 2 hours long and average between 6 and 8 students.

Elite has graciously offered an exclusive promotion to TexasOnThames.com readers of 15% off for two person / 10% off for one personKindly quote “ELN-TEXAS” when you call in to enroll at 6565 7166. 

To learn more about Elite’s language courses, check out http://www.languageasia.com/

Laura’s tuition was provided free of charge by Elite while Husband’s tuition was paid.

I had a visitor in town a few weeks ago and we decided to head to the Art Science Museum. It’s such a lovely piece of architecture and having it situated right on Marina Bay makes it’s hard to resist.

Currently there are two free exhibits on display, Hermes Leather Forever (until December 13) and The Nobel Prize: Ideas Changing the World (until January 2016).  We decided to check these two exhibits out and pay to see the Collider exhibit if we had time and energy afterward (spoiler alert: we did not.)

Unfortunately, I think we should have skipped the free exhibits and forked out the money for the Collider instead. Or better yet, made it to one of the ArtScience Late sessions where the museum is open for free in the evening.

I wasn’t all that impressed with the Nobel Prize exhibit and the Hermes exhibit felt like an overt advertisement. It’s not like I didn’t learn anything though- I got some historical perspective on the Nobel Prize and learned a bit about the beginnings of the Hermes brand. Did you know they got their start with horse riding?

We met Shanna for a drink at Overeasy on Collyer Quay after the museum session. She was surprised to hear that I was less than impressed with Hermes Leather Forever, but then again she attended a Champagne premier of the exhibit. Looking at luxury goods you can’t afford is always better with a glass of Champagne in hand.

One thing I can say is that the Hermes exhibit was artfully crafted. But you wouldn’t expect less, would you?

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Hermes Motorcycle Gear VROOM VROOM

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Can you spot the Birkin Bag??

The Sri Mariamman Temple is the oldest Hindu temple in Singapore and was founded in 1827, eight years after the East India Company established a trading settlement in Singapore. Today it is a stone’s throw from Singapore’s Central Business District.

The rural South Indian mother goddess Mariamman is a protector against diseases.

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Views in Singapore’s Chinatown are a mix of the old and the new.

Fingernail Baby Lies

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If you are from a culture that gives postnatal or prenatal gifts, chances are you ended up with 3 pairs of fingernail clippers and loads of mittens.

As you probably know, babies have to learn to control their hands and arms. They often end up scratching themselves and you in the early days.

This inconvenience is tapered by keeping nails short or having the baby wear mittens that typically fall off every hour or so.

Let me save you some time and tell you now, the nails are almost impossible to cut. Some will tell you they are paper thin and to peel or bite them off. Haha. No. All of these will have the baby screaming bloody murder until you don’t care that you look like a bad parent and let the baby go out with a scratch on their face and primordial looking claws.

The only way to tackle the task of nail clipping is clandestinely while they are asleep. You may only get a few in at a time so it may take a few iterations of sleep cycles.

You are welcome.

Also forget the haters. If you are managing to wear trousers (while in public, lets not get crazy here) and your baby has a clean diaper or had a clean diaper in the past hour, you are doing pretty fantastic.

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